The Children's Crusade

The Children's Crusade by Carla Jablonski Read Free Book Online Page A

Book: The Children's Crusade by Carla Jablonski Read Free Book Online
Authors: Carla Jablonski
familiar . Of course . Molly had mentioned missing children earlier that day. But that was in some other town, not here, he thought.
    â€œDidn’t that happen somewhere else?”
    She rolled her eyes. “First, Brighton. Then here.”
    That must explain why the playground is empty , Tim thought. All the children in this neighborhood must have gone missing, too.
    â€œSo,” Tim continued, “who is Oliver?”
    The girl scowled. “My little brother.”
    Hm. Clearly she isn’t a fan . “So, if all the other kids are gone, why aren’t you missing?” Tim asked.
    â€œI had to go to the orthodontist.” She grimaced and showed him her braces. “When I got home, everyone was gone.”
    â€œDo you have any idea where they went?” Tim asked, curious in spite of himself. It was kind of a relief to worry about someone else’s problems for a change.
    â€œNo one knows. But I bet it has something to do with that foreign kid who was always playing at the abandoned manor.”
    â€œWhat foreign kid?”
    â€œHe had a funny accent and wore the strangest clothes. I never saw anyone like him before.”
    â€œWhere was he from?” Tim asked.
    The girl shrugged. “America, I suppose. He kept going on about it being a free country where he came from. Isn’t that what they call America? He was always trying to get us to play games. Baby stuff. Hopscotch and the like. Nursery rhymes.”
    â€œHave the police been ’round?”
    The girl rolled her eyes. “Course they have. Just like on the telly. They asked me loads of questions. But I don’t think they’ll ever find Oliver.”
    â€œDo you miss him?” Tim had always wondered what it would be like to have a sister orbrother, especially in the last few weeks when everything had grown more and more confusing.
    â€œMy mum does. She’s frantic. I wish I was the one missing. No one pays any attention to me. All they care about is my stupid, piggy brother.”
    So much for sisterly love , Tim thought.
    â€œThe foreign kid is gone now, too. Maybe he wasn’t behind it at all. Maybe the kidnappers got him as well.” The girl shivered. “Maybe someone is out to kidnap all the children in the whole world. I overheard my parents talking, and they said forty children disappeared from Brighton. The same sort of case.”
    â€œThey’ll figure it out, I’m sure,” Tim said.
    â€œHow do you know?” she demanded in an accusing tone. “You don’t know anything.”
    â€œWell, what I mean to say is, uhm, I’m sure your brother is okay,” Tim said.
    â€œMaybe he is and maybe he isn’t.”
    Tim shook his head. No matter what he tried to say, it was the wrong thing. Is it me? Is it girls? Is it this girl in particular? He wasn’t even sure which she was more upset about—that her brother had gone missing or that she hadn’t.
    A woman with light brown hair and wire-rim glasses rushed into the playground. “Avril!” she cried. “You were supposed to be home ten minutes ago! I was so worried.”
    Ten minutes ? My dad doesn’t start to worry until I’ve been gone extra hours, not extra minutes. If then.
    The woman charged over to the swing and swooped the girl up into her arms. “I was afraid you’d been stolen away, too,” she said.
    Tim noticed a smirk cross Avril’s face. He suspected that she had planned this. Tim was fairly certain Avril was going to continue being late as long as she could get away with it. She obviously relished the attention.
    The woman finally noticed Tim. “You should get home right away, young man,” she scolded him. “Go inside and stay there. There are crazy people around.”
    Tim stood. “You have no idea,” he replied.
    Â 
    Marya stood in a confusing jumble of noise and motion. She blinked a few times and took a deep breath. That

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